Veterans Day Films: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)


Homer, Fred, and Al on their way home from combat

This movie, which won the Academy Award for Best Film in 1946, is a moving tale about three World War II veterans and their difficulties in readjusting to civilian life.

Fred (Dana Andrews), Homer (Harold Russell), and Al (Fredric March) have returned to their home town of Boone City after discharge from the military.  Each of these men has his own challenges:  Al is dealing with incipient alcoholism, Fred with post traumatic stress disorder, and Homer with the physical challenges of having lost both of his hands in combat.  (It should be noted that Russell, a non-actor, was actually a WWII veteran and double amputee.)

Ironically, Homer the amputee adjusts to his situation better than the other two.  Fred is chronically unemployed and married to an unsympathetic, unfaithful wife.  And Al and his spouse are confronted with the reality that their daughter (Teresa Wright) has fallen in love with Fred and intends to break up his marriage.

If you have never seen this movie, please do so.  It is beautifully acted, with real-life situations that still ring true today.

The Best Years of Our Lives is frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies and can be obtained through, either on DVD or on instant download.

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Pluses:  Beautifully acted, believable real-life situations

Minus:  Can’t think of any

Cast:  Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright

Director:  William Wyler

Rating:  Unrated

Black and white

Length:  172 minutes

1 thought on “Veterans Day Films: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

  1. Howard Phillips

    I absolutely agree with you. Scene with Dana Andrews in junk yard with all the discarded bombers. Himself an ex-bombadier who can’t seem to get anywhere in civilian life hoists himself up into the bombadier’s seat and relives an old bombing mission. The way William Wyler, the Director, captures the mood with the beads of sweat on Andrew’s forehead; the music simulating the scream of the engine revving up as we see the empty fusilages and the camera angles in and out as the music builds up to a crescendo.

    Earlier there was a scene with Andrew’s rummy father and his faded girl-friend who literally live on the other side of the tracks. His father quietly reads aloud his son’s citation for bravery tears but deep pride and emotion and an air of nobility.

    Wonderful scene with Harold Russell, a vet with prosthetic arms-also in real life..who has been avoiding his high school sweetheart because of his disability. She lovingly takes off his prosthetics and for the first time he hugs her with his stumps.

    I don’t think this film has ever been matched with it’s statements about vets and their loved ones trying to readjust to the Post-War.



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